The Deathless Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

This book is one in the new Bellatrix imprint of feminist retellings of classical tales for young adult readers.   Kiran Millwood Hargrave has chosen to rewrite Dracula, focusing on the so-called Brides of Dracula and imagining them as teenage Traveller twins who become vampyres ' by their own choice' in order to have power, escape their fate as enslaved Travellers and avoid separation.   I found aspects of the tale interesting, particularly the way in which the author captured the centuries old prejudice against Travellers and the links between power and gender.   However I found some of the more 'adventurous' events of the narrative were rather over-simplified.   This is marketed as a young adult's book but I am not sure that the author has fully addressed her market here.   Some of the narrative seems aimed at younger readers while some of the themes explored are certainly more adult.   I received a complimentary ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in return for an honest review.   I think the central notion of the series is a good one and look forward to reading more retellings.
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I absolutely loved this story! Told from a female perspective, this novel gives an insight into the women of the traditional Dracula story and the author really hooks you into their plight.  I found myself totally immersed in the world of the girls, and heartbroken at their plight early on. A really good read, and one I couldn’t put down - despite knowing there was only one way it could end.
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Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a truly gifted storyteller. I barely paused reading this dark gothic delight. The relationship between Kizzy and Lil is complex and true, which makes Lil’s ultimatum at the end really powerful to read. I really enjoyed this feminist reimagining of Dracula’s brides and the lyrical style of prose is tender and moving.
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This is the story of how twins Lillai and Kizzy become the brides of Dracula, although he doesn't make an appearance until late in the novel.  I was initially a bit puzzled by that, before remembering it's an origin story!  And it's a good one.

Lillai and Kizzy are part of a close-knit Travelling community, with their mother and brother, until the day the community is attacked, many of them are murdered, the caravans burnt and the young people taken into slavery. Most of them end up in the fields of the local castle, but the twins are taken into the house and initially work in the kitchens, with a plan to promote them to serving girls.  Most of the story is in the castle, where Lillai starts to form a relationship with Mira, a fellow slave in the kitchens, and it is Mira who helps Lillai when the promotion to serving girl causes Kizzy to be taken from the castle to the Voevoda - Dracul.  

I really, really enjoyed this.  It's a bit of an insight into the Traveller community, Lillai is a sympathetic lead character and the hints of worse things to come don't overshadow the petty meanness and misery of every day life in the kitchens.  I'd recommend this!
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I was intrigued by the concept of this book and enjoyed the lead up to the girls becoming the Brides of Dracula in a way that empowered rather than devoured them.

I loved the setting, the gypsy folklore, mushroom munching and bear dancing. Also the ticking off things of the vampire trope list, bodies on stakes, terrified locals and evil side eye moments.

As well as the usual vampire stuff, the castles and kitchens reminded me of Gormenghast and the strong female character in a man's world reminded me of Katerine Arden's Winternight Trilogy.

I'd like to have seen more of the twins lives as vampires and felt that the ending was rushed but maybes that's something for another book.
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The Deathless Girls is an intoxicatingly compelling, dark gothic read; written with such exquisite mastery that I couldn’t bear to put it down.  
Seventeen-year-old twins, Lil and Kizzy, are Travellers, a people who are treated with disrespect and disdain, by many of the Settled who are prejudiced towards their way of life.  On the eve of their divining, when they would have found out their future, their family is ripped from them by the careless cruelty of the local Boyar (ruler).  
Although they are enslaved by their captors, they are still determined to be the diviners of their own fate, and fight against their new life.  The girls are sent to work in the castle kitchens, in preparation to become serving girls at the whim of their male master, a master who ‘ … looked, like the worst monsters often do, like a normal man.’
Enduring terrible hardships, they also build bonds with the other kitchen girls, and the Cook, who has her own secret past.  Lil, who has known only familial love, feels drawn to Mira, a Settler slave:  their burgeoning relationship is beautifully portrayed.  
Whilst in the castle, the sisters discover more about the seemingly mythical creature, the Dragon, a creature who strikes abject terror into the population.   The girls’ fates are inextricably linked to each other, and to this cruelly mesmerising creature, a fate which takes them on a final terrible journey.
Throughout, the girls’ emotional states shift between blazing firebrands and smouldering embers, and this dichotomy kept me emotionally invested throughout.  Unwavering fierce sibling love, tempered with disappointment and anger, is a powerful driving force in their story.  It is this endlessly enduring love which leads to heart-breaking sacrifices by both girls.  And their re-awakening as The Deathless Girls, two of the ‘Brides of Dracula’.
The atmosphere is imbued with a sense of fear and threat, building almost unbearable tension, which makes the courage, dignity and strength of the girls, and their friends, all the more excruciatingly awe-inspiring.    There is a real feministic tone throughout as the girls fight against a life they have not chosen to live, fight against the people who exert control over them, and fight to have power in a seemingly powerless situation. The inexorable fate of Lil and Kizzy is all the more tragic and poignant, knowing their story:  their pain, their love, their sacrifices.  
This really is an inspired imagining of the untold story of the ‘brides of Dracul’ by an inspiring author:  a story that will linger with me for a long time.
Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette Children’s Group for an e-ARC of The Deathless Girls.
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A very readable story of two sisters. Even though the ending of the book is clear from the premise, there are a number of twists and turns to keep you intrigued. The ending itself felt a little rushed compared to the rest of the story but overall I enjoyed the story.
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I loved this book. It’s a gothic tale told from a strong female protagonist’s point of view. Lil is nearly seventeen, a twin, living life to the full within a close knit community when disaster strikes- all the elders in her community are murdered violently and the young adults and children are enslaved. She and Kizzy her twin are selected to become ‘serving girls’- and are destined to be playthings of the man who was behind their capture. Fate intervenes and Kizzy is taken to an even darker more sinister place to the North. The book follows Lil hellbent on rescue and seamlessly segues from a seemingly real historical landscape to a fantastical one as she and her companions (with one of whom she is in a burgeoning relationship) travel.
Lil’s and Kizzy’s ultimate fates are apparent from the outset in this book. They will become brides of Dracul. The journey to this destination is beautifully woven and compelling. Read this book and you won’t regret it.
I am grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review
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Really enjoyed reading this. It’s made me want to revisit Dracula and it’s up there with ‘My swordhand is singing’ and ‘Pages from a young girl’s journal’ as one of my favourite vampire tales. A beautiful, wise and poignant book. Gorgeous.
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An original gothic vampire origin story told from the POV of one of Dracula’s brides, giving it a feminist voice that is so refreshing for gothic fantasy!  

Kiran’s beautifully written poetic prose conjures the reader into a vividly imagined world of Travellers and slavers that feels  utterly believable and palpable, then it ever so gradually moves from realism into more sinister suggestions of unnatural evils, then before you realise the shift, you’re reading full-blown fantasy. Deftly done! And the characters are so much more convincingly alive for it. Which makes the ending that much more heart rending. 

This is an outstanding start for new YA imprint Bellatrix. Millwood Hargrave has cunningly woven many contemporary themes, such as white male privilege and heteronormativity, into an ancient story and brought it to life anew. 

I’m always eager to read Kiran Millwood Hargrave and this may be my favourite so far. She has  set the bar very high indeed for Bellatrix. Will be keeping an eager eye out for what comes next from both!
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The Deathless Girls is billed as the untold story of the Brides of Dracula, who feature briefly in Bram Stoker's book. Following twins Kizzy and Lil, Romani travellers, who on their 17th birthday are kidnapped and enslaved by the feared local lord, the Boyar Valcar. Taken to his castle and put into service, the girls face adversity together until, on the orders of the Boyar, Kizzy is taken as a gift for Dracul. Although beautifully and evocatively written, I found it puzzling that the focus was on their back story (which, yes it's useful to have some back story but so much?). Given the opportunity of telling the story of a pair of vampire sisters endowned with incredible powers and talents, the choice to devote two pages to their life as vampires and the rest of the book to the minutia of kitchen work was unusual to say the least. While the last section, when Lil travels to Dracul's castle to find Kizzy, was pacy and tense, it barely made up for the first 60%. However, judging from other reviews I am very much in the minority here, so it's most likely a question of personal taste.
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Thank you to Netgalley, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Hatchette Children's Books for my arc of The Deathless Girls in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis: The untold story of the Brides of Dracula, the first YA book from author Kiran Millwood Hargrave. A gothic story which follows twins Kizzy and Lil, seventeen year old travellers who are awaiting the divining that will allow them to discover their fates. But before that can happens tragedy strikes. Kidnapped and enslaved by the Boyar Valcar and made to work in his castle. Then they find out about the Dragon, a mysterious and evil man who takes girls as gift, how will he influence the girls fates? 

I liked this story a lot, I only recently got my proper introduction to the story of Dracula which I listened to as an audiobook earlier this year, I then recently read the new book Dracul by Bram Stoker's grandson which gives some history on the influences behind the story. It was great to read a new and female driven story exploring the brides of Dracula. I liked the exploration of the traveller community and the exploration of the racism which they were and to an extent still are, targeted with. 

A great blend of fantasy, horror and historical fiction.
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A dark, YA tale much in the vein of other modern fairy tale reimaginings. If you're a fan of Dracula style legends, girls fighting to choose their own fate and the bonds of sisterhood, you may well adore this!
I enjoyed it and found the second half better than the first, so if you're feeling you need more action after about a third of the way in - stock with it! I reay enjoyed Fen and Mira's inclusion and when things got exciting and dark in the last third. The first half lacked the same menace and pace but the whole thing is beautifully written throughout.
If you like Katherine Arden or Naomi Novik, give this a shot!
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Excellent - with fantastic characters, storyline and writing style, I would highly recommend this book.
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Having loved, ‘A Girl of Ink and Stars’ and ‘The Island at the End of Everything’, I was excited to read this book, especially knowing that the girls were originally the ‘brides’ in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. 
It was a fantastic fast paced read that I couldn’t put down; it gripped me so much, I read it in a day.  The plot pulled me along, with strong characters portrayed as gutsy and determined - trying to survive their impending fate.  The anticipation of the ending meant that the suspense kept you enthralled, all the way through.  I loved the fact that each of the female characters developed in strength throughout the story, remaining loyal to their bond as sisters.  At the end, the sisters didn’t just survive their fate they chose it.
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This review original appeared on my blog.


This has been the book I didn’t know I wanted, didn’t know I needed, until I held it in my hands. I’m familiar with Kiran Milwood Hargrave’s Middle-grade adventures, which have all been received favourably. Since I knew I enjoyed her writing, I was pleased to discover that her YA debut would be published this year. And what a debut it is.

The Deathless Girls is the glorious origin story of the brides of Dracula. In case you haven’t read Bram Stoker’s excellent vampire novel, the three sisters (other times referred to as “weird sisters”) feature briefly in the events at Dracula’s castle – as well as nearing the end. They encounter Jonathan Harker when he falls asleep on a couch, after he was warned explicitly to sleep in no room but his own. Not much is revealed about the women, but they are described as beautiful and alluring – revelling in toying with their prey.

The reader is never left to dwell too long on these vampiric women, with the focus being  on Harker and the Count himself. I never wondered about them, not really. Not until this book was lying right in front of me. How wonderful to receive a story you never even knew you wanted! Hargrave’s novel is a YA adventure, full of fantasy, romance, and a darkness that simmers beneath the page. The plot certainly carries something darker with it, up to its twisted fate — and there is no mistaking that this is Young Adult fiction. The world building is, as expected, very strong, and the characters each shine in their own way. I don’t wish to spoil too much, but I will reveal a little more about the plot itself:

Lil and Kizzy, twins born under a blood moon, are travellers, their lives brimming with fate, dancing bears, and a wonderful sort of freedom. They are captured and brought to work as slaves, away from everything they have known, and to serve Boyar Valcar in his castle. They meet the other girls who work in the kitchens, those that serve the many dishes at mealtimes, and discover dark stories about a bloodthirsty and cruel man. It sounds like myth and legend, like ghost stories told to scare young children. Lil also meets Mira, a Settled girl with a shaved head who had been punished harshly for her previous disobedience. She finds herself drawn to the other girl, in a way that surprises her sister. When the twins are torn from one another, Kizzy is taken to Dragon, the terrifying figure featured in all the legends, and Lil must embark further North to save her sister and uncover the truth.

Something that really struck me while reading, was the romance in this book. YA often contains some sort of romantic pairing. It’s one of the distinguishing features from Middle-grade. Something that I have seldom encountered in YA, is a romantic pairing that diverts from the heteronormative. Love triangles, star-crossed lovers, love-at-first-sight — it’s all expected, even welcomed, in young-adult fiction, whether it be literary or on the screen. But for many children and teenagers it is incredibly alienating to not find themselves represented in the media. It’s why it’s so incredibly important for characters, especially main characters, to be diverse. While, of course, LGBT* is a HUGE theme in many YA novels (which is amazing), it’s still something I don’t come across as much in novels marketed to a wider audience. What I mean is that it’s nice to see an LGBT* character, where their defining trait isn’t that they are LGBT*. In fact, it’s barely even mentioned. It’s just there. Naturally.

So indeed. This book features a “classic YA” lesbian romance and it was something that made my heart soar and flutter. The book also made me very emotional, particularly towards the end. The prose, as usual, was beautiful, dotted with a language I did not know (Romanian), and filled with descriptions of castles, and twisty woods, and tables laden with platters. There was darkness, but also a tenderness I did not expect when I first picked up the book. It’s certainly a story filled with mythology and legend – of course, the legend of Dracula and of vampires is an ancient one that is strikingly familiar for most of us. Even if one has never read Bram Stoker’s original novel.

I really, desperately, want to discuss this book with anyone who will listen. But I will bide my time and be patient until September, when it is finally published. And then. Then I will rush to recommend it to all my friends. Who says that vampire fiction is dead?
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As a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula, I was very curious to read this take on the the "brides" described in the original novel. As vampires are made, not born, they all have a prequel if only someone is willing to tell it. Twin sisters Kizzy and Lil are persecuted for their traveller heritage and fight for whatever is left of their family, as well as for each other. Kidnapped and enslaved, their spirits never waiver as they constantly strive for freedom in their different ways. The impact of this book is truly in the writing of it - beautiful descriptions and carefully crafted characters keep you enthralled through to the inevitable conclusion.
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Kiran Millwood Hargrave has such a beautiful way of orchestrating language and describing the world in such a way that you are immediately transported there.   Scents, feelings, taste, all senses are thoroughly represented and you come away feeling like this book is now a part of your very soul.
This is a new fiercely female perspective on the Dracula stories we have heard in the past,
Twins Lil and Kizzy, are travellers, much hated and treated badly by society.  The day before their divining, which is a ceremony learning your future path, their camp is burned and they are taken with other teens to become slaves.  The rest of their travelling community murdered.
They become slaves to a cruel Boyar and are forced to do much against their will.  In true feminist form, they learn to fight back, bare the consequences of their actions and protect each other and those they have grown to love.

Lil, the quieter twin, finds love in an unexpected place.  Kizzy learns to sacrifice through her actions and both follow a path never before taken.  There is an element of twin sense and knowing that you would do anything for your sibling within this book.

It is a dark novel full of female power, fierce love and a true sense of choosing your fate.

I devoured it in an evening, unable to leave the story at any point, needing to continue the adventure just as Drac needed to feast on blood.
Truly engrossing, utterly beautiful and a new girl power voice in the old Dracula legend.

Fast paced, truly adventurous
Heartbreaking and sad
Brave and fierce

Read it!
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